(For Twig, VJCool)
Since we happen to be in the mood for foreign movies lately, we readily took up some of our readers’ entreaties to watch the French film Delicatessen the other day.
Delicatessen is on Netflix Instant Play and so access to this movie is not an issue for our North American readers.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro directed this 1991 movie that debuted to favorable notices from both critics and the juries at various award ceremonies.
To our delight, Delicatessen turned out to be a classy, charming movie in many respects.
Set in post-war or post-apocalyptic times amidst sepiaesque ruined buildings, Delicatessen resembles the Johnny Depp film Sweeney Todd (2007) in its morbid, arresting central theme.
The movie centers around the lives of a bunch of oddball dwellers in a tall ramshackle apartment building lorded over by the butcher owner.
For us, one of the highlights of the film was fine photography by Darius Khondji (the man behind the camera in Woody Allen’s recent work of beauty Midnight in Paris). Often, moviegoers tend to dwell on the actors, the story or in the Indian case, the music.
Despite movies being a visual medium, seldom do we pay careful attention to the fast-moving images on the screen except in rare instances like an Avatar. Khondji is a master of his craft and it shows in Delicatessen and more so in Midnight in Paris, where the visual appeal is stunning.
The acting caliber of the main characters in Delicatessen is of a high order.
Dominique Pinon as the vulnerable former circus clown and current handyman Louison, Marie-Laure Dougnac as the butcher’s myopic daughter Julie Clapet aware of Louison’s impending fate, Jean-Claude Dreyfus as the butcher Clapet with the hideous, evil laugh and Karin Viard as the butcher’s pretty lover with expressive eyes are fine performers and render much joy.
There are some nice comic moments too, like the squeaky springs of the butcher’s bed that has the other dwellers doing their acts in sync.
But Delicatessen is not a great film.
There’s something missing.
Partly, it was the deja vu feeling we got from the story because we’d seen Sweeney Todd.
And perhaps because the violence always lurks in the background rather than in the foreground.
Also, the motivations, collusion and silence of the other tenants with the butcher’s gory acts puzzled us.
Did their desperate greed for cheap meat silence their tongues?
* A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop – We watched this Chinese film on a Blockbuster DVD.
A remake of the Coen brothers’ debut film Blood Simple, Chinese film-maker Zhang Yimou is the director of A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop.
The movie is alright, just not a riveting entertainer.
The film centers around a rich, suspicious noodle-shop owner, his adulterous wife, her lover, two assistants and a crooked policeman.
With its strange twists and turns and fine photography, the movie makes for a decent watch.
Again, although we enjoyed the film and the acting we didn’t think the movie was extraordinary.
Is there no one else in the village except these characters?
The Noodle Shop in the title becomes superfluous after the initial few minutes or so.
Also, the repeated forays of the assistants into the owner’s den in the semi-dark silence seemed too contrived and repetitive after a while.
@Delicatessen: the starting credits had more imagination than the average Indian movie.
BTW: have you seen Danny Boyle’s ‘Shallow Grave’ caught it on TV at the height of ‘Slumdog’ fever, quite a good one.
Shallow Grave? No.
Just watched a marvelous painting and listened to some fine poetry – Amélie!
Compared to Amélie, Delicatessen is kid stuff.
you’ll like ‘a very long engagement’ too. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ is a fable.
BTW a link to what feels like a good film – yet to be released
and another film on Hitler that made me feel for and fear the mad man ‘Der untergang’
1. Regarding your above link, what we’ve seen of Neha Dhupia so far has not convinced us that the she-male has anything more than
a goodan acceptable pair of knockers!
2. Don’t know about ‘Der Untergang‘ but we see that it debuted to a friendly reception from critics and viewers.
“Compared to Amélie, Delicatessen is kid stuff.”
“Also, the motivations, collusion and silence of the other tenants with the butcher’s gory acts puzzled us.”
I wouldn’t rob off Delicatessen of its value. The rules for post-apocalyptic, literally “man eats man” world is different from the world of ours.
Amelie is set in our present world where we can connect emotionally. In Delicatessen, unless you cannot make your mind believe the obvious loss of humanity in extreme cases like post apocalypse, I think one cannot feel the “greatness” of the film.
1. You write: In Delicatessen, unless you cannot make your mind believe the obvious loss of humanity in extreme cases like post apocalypse, I think one cannot feel the “greatness” of the film.
That is so sophomoric.
You don’t need a post-apocalyptic scenario to see the loss/lack of humanity in Man.
Open your eyes and just beneath the veneer lies unalloyed misery, mostly avoidable misery!
But then you’d also have to see through the mind, not merely through the eyes. That, of course, is something most of us including yours truly are too lazy to attempt.
Our mind believes convincingly in the loss/lack of humanity at the core of most Men and we still cannot feel the ‘greatness’ of Delicatessen!
Of course, Delicatessen is good but it doesn’t penetrate and stir the soul the way a great work of art does instinctively!
2. BTW, for the most part of his existence on Earth, Man has always fed on Man, if not literally then figuratively.
” we still cannot feel the ‘greatness’ of Delicatesse””
But Casablanca did? 😉
Despite the presence of our inamorata Ingrid Bergman and an eternal favorite Bogie, we’d now say Casablanca was good but not great!
It had fine lines.
True, Ingrid looked ethereal as Ilsa, Bogie was marvelous as Rick and Claude Rains mischievously charming as the police chief.
Casablanca captured the zeitgeist of the war years well, the love, the forced separation of people, the Nazi menace, desperate hunt for papers to leave the country, the thuggish Nazis and all the other uncertainties and risks of the times.
But none of it seems like high art!
“it was the deja vu feeling we got from the story because we’d seen Sweeney Todd.”
This is really an important statement because I felt the same when I watched a certain movies. For example:
“Casablanca” or “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge”.(DDLJ)
I’ve heard of the above movies all the time. I first watched movies which are similar to the above
movies and which were greatly made. They were not famous because they are not path breakers unlike DDLJ.
Now when I saw DDLJ at later point of time, I didn’t feel anything. Thought it was a greatly overrated movie
of all time. Same with ‘Casablanca’. Other than Ingrid Bergman’s smile in one of those Paris scenes,
nothing worked for me. May be because I have seen greater movies which depicted love in spite of separation
in many movies which were released after ‘Casablanca’.
Strangely I felt greatness for the movie “Citizen Kane” because I’ve never watched a movie of that kind.
So, now I ask the question. When we review older movies, from what point of view we should review them?
Is it difficult to review a movie keeping aside personal biases, your emotional conflicts?
1. You write: When we review older movies, from what point of view we should review them? Is it difficult to review a movie keeping aside personal biases, your emotional conflicts?
When we review any movie (old or new), the frame of reference or benchmark is always the magic of the photography in/by Darius Khondji (Delicatessen, Midnight in Paris), Pan’s Labyrinth, Avatar, I Saw the Devil, Chaser; the exceptional acting of a Marlon Brando, Javier Bardem, Heath Ledger, Henry Fonda or Christoph Waltz; a child actress like Nina Kervel-Bey (Blame it on Fidel) or Dakota Fanning; the haunting and timeless music of Ennio Morricone; the smooth flow of Forrest Gump; the beauty, class and grace of Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn.
The bar is high and obviously most Indian films fall flat.
Of course, it’s unfair to older films in so many ways because technology has evolved although storytelling abilities and acting are independent of time.
2. You write: Is it difficult to review a movie keeping aside personal biases, your emotional conflicts?
No, we can’t stand Aamir Khan (habitually profits from theft), Salman Khan (criminal scumbag and a beast), Shahrukh Khan (hates America), Abhishek Bachchan (congenital moron), Akshay Kumar (asks us to leave our brains at home before watching his films), Ajith (the idiot can’t even walk straight), Priyanka Chopra (an emetic and a graceless and lazy cow if you ask us, for her repeated horrid performances).
But we try our best not to let our beliefs (we said beliefs not biases) affect our reviews!